What You Need To Know:

THE THIEF is a tragic, interesting, but not completely satisfying, story about a charismatic Russian thief who steals the hearts of a widowed young woman and her charming son in 1952. Regrettably, it includes several needlessly offensive elements, such as explicit sexuality and nudity, and ends in despair, with no hope for a better life.


(RoRo, H, Pa, L, VV, SS, NNN, A, D, M) Romantic worldview with humanist & pagan elements; 4 strong obscenities, 3 mild obscenities & 1 strong profanity; man hits man, boy punches two boys, man slaps woman, man shoves woman against cabinet, police chase & arrest man while holding him down on ground, man throws salt into three people's faces, & teenager shoots man in back; two scenes of implied sex, one scene of depicted sex & sounds of making love; one scene of upper female nudity, scenes of natural upper male nudity, & one scene of total male nudity in Russian bathhouse, woman in underwear, man urinates, & boy urinates his pants twice; alcohol use; smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality such as stealing, lying & gaining people's confidence through deception.

More Detail:

THE THIEF is a 1997 movie from Russia that is just appearing on our shores this summer. It was nominated for an foreign movie Oscar earlier this year but lost out to the Dutch movie KARAKTER.

Shot in the style of Russian realism that has a tradition going back to the 1920s, THE THIEF tells the story of a young widow named Katja and her six-year-old son Sanja who take up with a man posing as a Russian soldier during Russian dictator Joseph Stalin’s final days in 1952. The man, named Toljan, befriends the two while on a train. Soon, he and Katja find a secluded spot on the train to fornicate. The three then get off randomly at a town along the way, where they find a communal style apartment where several families share the kitchen and the bathroom. At first, Sanja feels left out because of his mother’s affair with this “soldier,” but eventually Toljan establishes a rapport with the boy by showing his tattoos of a leopard and Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. He teaches Sanja how to act tough with the neighborhood bully boys.

One day, Toljan hosts a celebration for their neighbors in the apartment. He invites them all to the circus, but Katja finds out its only a ruse so that Toljan can excuse himself for a smoke, go back to the apartment and steal the people’s belongings. Katja and Sanja follow Toljan back to the apartment, and, because she loves him, she agrees to the theft if he promises to stop stealing. Toljan, however, likes the life he leads, and soon he is robbing again, even using Sanja to climb through an apartment window and open the door for him.

Using Sanja is the last straw for Katja. She buys train tickets to go find work in another town, but Toljan is arrested while they are saying their tearful good-byes. Toljan gets seven years, and Sanja pitifully runs after the prison transport truck, crying for “Daddy,” the only father he has really known. Katja soon dies after that incident, from a botched abortion, presumably Toljan’s unborn child. Several years later, the teenage Sanja runs into Toljan, who has taken up with another woman and gone back to his thieving ways. After he shows no compassion toward Sanja, the tragic boy shoots Toljan in the back while Toljan, holding more stolen goods, secretly hops a freight train at night.

The three lead actors in this interesting but not completely satisfying movie give equally strong performances. Vladimir Mashkov shows lots of swagger as the evil Toljan. His betrayal of the other two mirrors Stalin’s betrayal of the Russian people, the movie seems to say. THE THIEF is truly a tragic, heartbreaking story, but it includes several needlessly offensive elements such as explicit sexual activity and nudity. It also ends in despair, with the orphan boy Sanja having little hope of a better life. Jesus Christ, however, can offer hope to all people everywhere. That is why American Christian must always protect their religious freedom in this country to evangelize the world and reform society so that what happened in Russia won’t happen here.